Heritier, in the Child Friendly Spaces project in CAR

Islamic Relief aid worker Nick Jones is visiting the conflict-torn Central African Republic (CAR). He tells the story of Héritier, an eleven-year-old boy he met at our Child Friendly Spaces project.

Héritier is from Kina, on the outskirts of the country’s capital. Before the crisis, he spent his days as any other child – and particularly enjoyed school. His favourite lessons were French and Geography.

But then, in December 2013, the violence that is ripping through CAR came to his community. As people fled to safety, he was separated from his parents. Months later, Héritier still does not know where they are.

His neighbours helped Héritier to get to a safer place, and they are looking after his as one of their own. He dreams of the day he can be reunited with his family and return home to live in peace.

Respite from the horrors of war

Magali, who is taking care of him, told us that Héritier is a nice, kind boy who helps around the house. Unfortunately, he is anemic and she must borrow money to buy him medicine. Her own son also attends the Child Friendly Spaces project, which is supported by Islamic Relief. She says that the project is having a very positive impact, as a place where displaced children receive support and stimulation designed to provide respite from the horrors of war – as well as a chance to simply have fun.

Héritier is preoccupied and sad without his family. But, he has been able to make new friends in Guitangola Source. They enjoy playing sports and games together at the project site.  He looks up to the supervisor of the project, and – when he is able to go back to school – plans to study hard so he can build a career helping others.

Our Child Friendly Spaces include a Listening Centre, where 200 children like Héritier go to talk things over with a trained adult. Severe cases of psychological or medical concern are referred to specialists, ensuring that children receive the support they need.

Nick Jones with Héritier, Magali and the project supervisor.

Nick Jones with Heritier, Magali and the project supervisor.

Many more children need help

When I asked him how he thought we could improve the Child Friendly Spaces, Héritier instead told us that the community needs food, medicine, and a school. He hopes to have new clothes and to eat more than one meal per day.

Many children from CAR have been separated from their families. Some have witnessed terrifying events and even become orphaned as a result of the attacks.

Around 8,000 children are being supported by the Child Friendly Spaces project. The scheme is often the only place where they can play and learn, and offers local staff that are fully trained on child protection and child rights. Child Friendly Spaces staff also work with the community to promote child welfare, hygiene and HIV/Aids prevention.

However, since a new surge in conflict during May, many more children need help – and the centres are over-subscribed. Now, the children have to come to play and learn in shifts.

With your support, we can increase the capacity of places like these – providing a safe environment where children Héritier can carve out a childhood once more. Please donate to our Appeal for the people of CAR today.